The box is just large enough for the opossum brothers to open up. Their hands are not the same as humans, of course, but the fur-less digits are far more nimble than that of a dog. Since the box is lacking any sort of a latch, it’s easy for them to push off the top.
Inside, there’s a black and white photo of none other than Cornwallis, sitting on the front lawn of the White House. It shouldn’t exist, but it does. There’s also a thick piece of red string that is attached to the inside of the box. The string runs from one side of the box to the other side, very firmly hooked into place.
Mr. Reciprocity frowns. “What is that?”
“String, brother.” Mr. Protection stands up on his hind legs and peers into the box. “It looks like it’s about to snap.”
“Is it? Why, brother, it is!” Mr. Reciprocity touches the string very lightly with one front paw. It’s almost worn through at the middle, barely held together. “I fear that this is our puzzle.”
“A trial,” corrects Mr. Protection.
“Both,” amends Mr. Reciprocity. He pulls away before his touch can break the string. “Now, the only question is, what does it mean?”
Mr. Protection frowns. “I think you need some sleep, brother. We’re the founders! Don’t you remember how everything started? Don’t you remember what we found the very first time we were called into the Room?”
Mr. Reciprocity is quiet for a very long moment.
The truth is this: he is impossibly old, and impossibly tired.
But it’s also this: he is a Founder, and that means never giving up.
It also means knowing the secrets of the Room like no one else.
Mr. Reciprocity frowns. “Do you think it’s about the time-lines?”
“I think we’re very close to having something snap,” says Mr. Protection. “And I think we’re supposed to be trying to save him, and fix whatever has caused this.”
“It’s got to do with that picture,” says Mr. Reciprocity. They look at the picture again, but it doesn’t seem particularly out of the ordinary. There’s nothing strange about the house. There’s nothing strange about the yard.
There’s not even anything strange about the way Cornwallis looks.
Finally, Mr. Reciprocity announces, “I think that he’s our clue and our trial.”
Mr. Protection nods in agreement. “Now all we have to do is find him.”
As if responding to their words, a door flashes into existence. It has a set of stairs inside, which lead up a very long way.
The two brothers look at each other. They twist their tails together and, step for step, start their way up the stairs.
For they are Founders, and they will fix this.
Katelynn E Koontz – Author